Honda reports today it has developed a process to produce ethanol fuel from soft-biomass, a renewable resource of plant-derived material. In collaborative research with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, or RITE, Honda has established the basic technology to produce ethanol fuel from inedible leaves and stalks of plants, such as rice straw. Existing bio-ethanol production faces supply limits, as it is produced primarily from sugar and starch of sugarcane and corn feedstock, which are also utilized as food. Further, current technology allows fermentation inhibitors, collaterally formed primarily during the process of separating cellulose and hemicellulose from soft-biomass, to interfere with the function of microorganisms that convert sugar into alcohol, leading to extremely low ethanol yield. Up to now, an appropriate solution has not been found to this the largest obstacle to alcohol production from soft-biomass. The new process uses a microorganism developed by RITE to reduce such interference, allowing for far more efficient ethanol production. Until now, such soft-biomass represented a challenge to convert to ethanol. Thus, the new process represents a large step forward for practical application of soft-biomass as a fuel source, Honda reports in a statement.
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